Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Jesuit Christmas Meal

Jesuit Communities here in the Philippines do not have festive meals during Christmas Eve. It is because the Jesuit Scholastics, brothers and fathers are all busy in celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in their respective apostolate areas. After celebrating the mass, the Jesuits simply go back to their community, partake of simple snacks of wine, fruits and cheese and enjoy some good chats. Scholastics and brothers who live within the metropolis are allowed to go home to celebrate the Christmas eve with their families.

Traditionally, Jesuits come together as a community for a more elaborate and good meal on the evening of Christmas day. Here, the Minister of each Jesuit house once again takes charge and make sure that the community gets a real Christmas feast.

Here’s a sample menu for a Jesuit Christmas two-course meal:

Air Dried Ham wrapped in Melon,
Smoked Salmon , Smoked Turkey
Foi Gras Paté, Gorgonzola Cheese
Green Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Onion Soup
Lemoned Sea Bass Fillet with Capers
on buttered vegetables
Kalamansi (Philippine Lemon) Sherbet
Grilled Lamb Chops with Herbs
with Portabella and Sundried Tomato Risotto

NY Style Cheese Cake
Topped with Fresh Fruits and Pecan Nuts
Here's the recipe for the Sea Bass Fillet:
Lemoned Sea Bass Fillet with Capers
1 kl sea bass, grouper or cod fillet 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 2 medium sized lemon
½ cup capers, rinsed
4 tablespoon olive oil salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoon poppy seeds
½ cup dry white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
2. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Drizzle with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle poppy seeds on the white area. Combine garlic and capers in a bowl and mix well.
3. Over high heat, heat 3 – 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet until it is very hot. Place the fillet, skin side down, in the pan and cook about 1 minute, until it browns. Turn the fillet and cook a minute or two on the other side.
4. Off the heat, spoon the garlic/caper mixture on top (the skinless side). Slices of lemon may be added. Pour the wine over the fish. Cook in the oven until the thickest part of the fillet looks opaque, about 10 minutes.
5. Serving Suggestion: Put layers of buttered legumes and carrots on the plate. Arrange sea bass fillet on top, showing the white meat side. Spoon in garlic and capers on top. Garnish with a slice of fresh lemon. Pour in white wine sauce over the fish.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Pineapple Lemon Iced Tea

Let me speak for myself: I find much consolation after the midnight Christmas mass to be with a community of Jesuits who are there for the noche buena. You see, when the 9 Simbanggabi or Misa de Gallo masses end, when the Christmas parties have all been done, and the hordes of people leave the church for their families, the priest comes back to an empty room. And it can get terribly cold and lonely. But thank God, I have my Jesuit community to spend Christmas with.

Though Christmas nights are cold and chilly, and a hot drink is called for, I still prefer cold drinks. I got a text message from Angel, a student of UP: "Tonight, we take our weary lives and our broken world to the manger, to our hope and joy: our God who is always young, who makes all things new. Merry Christmas!" In terms of beverage, a pineapple-lemon iced tea can do wonders to weary lives and broken worlds. This iced tea is indeed refreshing, young, and happy: yes, it does remind you of summer --- without the heat! And I guess, when all sorts of fruits are offered during the Christmas masses, we just have to find ways to use them.

5 bags black tea
6 cups boiling water
3 cups pineapple juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup honey or caramelized brown sugar
12 ice cubes
1 cup soda water or Sprite/7-Up
4 orange slices or slice of pineapple (optional) or sprigs of mint

Place tea in a large teapot and add boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes to infuse. Add caramelized brown sugar or honey. Stir until fully dissolved.

Place pineapple juice, lemon juice and ice cubes in food processor or blender and process until ice is crushed and mixture is smooth. Add tea into blender. Process until fully mixed.

To serve, pour into tall glasses until two-thirds full, top with soda water and serve immediately. Garnish with orange slices or a slice of pineapple or a sprig of mint. You can add ice cubes (best if it is summer!).

Serves 6.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Longganisa Crostini & Adobo Pasta

For the past number of years, the Ateneo Office of Mission and Identity (OMIOD) has been helping Jesuit scholastics and brothers in our formation by giving us seminars on leadership, management, and the like.

Last November, Godofredo "Gods" Lanuza of Innerview Consulting Services Internation, Inc. gave us another seminar on leadership. During breaks, he and Mrs. Vergara and I would talk about experimenting with food. Today, I was invited to cook for their office for their Christmas party. I decided on a Filipino-Italian theme.

Longganisa Crostini with Sage Cream Sauce
1 baguette, sliced

1 kg. longganisa (garlic sausage), cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. oregano
some sherry

2 c. whipping cream, chilled and whipped
5 tbsps. ground sage
1/4 c. grated pecorino romano cheese
1 tbsp. white pepper
salt, to taste

Fry longganisa to a crisp, add the garlic and brown. Then add the oregano and sherry. Simmer until the sherry has evaporated. Set aside.

Using a mixer, whip the cream while gradually adding the ground sage, white pepper, salt, and cheese.

To serve, top a toasted baguette with the fried longganisa and serve with a dollop of sage cream sauce.

Adobo Pasta
1/2 kg. pork tenderloin, sliced into strips
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. soy sauce
2 tbsps. sugar
3 tbsps. black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsps. cornstarch dissolved in
2 tbsps. water

cooked pasta (spaghetti or spaghettini)
olive oil

Sauteé onion in olive oil until tender. Add the garlic. When the garlic turns golden, add the rosemary and then the pork. Sear all sides of the pork before adding the vinegar. Boil the vinegar until the acidity is somewhat reduced. Add the soy sauce and then bring to a boil. Then add the cornstarch solution to thicken. Top over cooked pasta and serve with grated pamesan cheese.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pasta Immaculada

For two years now as Jesuit Regents here in Xavier School, my co-regent Aldrie Lim and I have been renovating our vows on the day of the Immaculate Conception (December 8). Since this is our last year (hopefully) as regents in this community I decided to make our dinner a little more special to celebrate the renewal of our commitment to religious life as well as to honor our Lady, “conceived without sin through the merits of Christ’s salvific act.”

We opened a bottle of Xavier Jubilee Wine and had a platter of mixed chorizos and hamones for preprandials. Since our cook’s duty was only until 2:00 p.m, I decided to just order fried chicken from KFC and prepared a simple seafood pasta for the community.

I like to share this recipe that I concocted on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I must admit that I heavily depended on my intuition when I prepared the pasta so the measurements are rough approximations. I’ll try to do this again and will give you a more “stable” recipe. You may also want to try it and let me know of your suggestions.

Pasta Immaculada

10 medium sized shrimp; cleaned and deveined
6 medium sized squid; cleaned
100 g. lapu-lapu (grouper or any alternative) fillet

5 medium sized tomatoes; diced
6 cloves of garlic; minced.
50 g. parsley; chopped
50 g. olives

6 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup of white wine

½ kg. spaghetti or linguine; precooked al dente

salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice shrimp into half. Cut fish fillet and squid into pieces. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic.
3. Saute the garlic, stirring it for about 15-20 seconds. Make sure that the garlic doesn’t turn brown.
4. Add seafood ingredients and saute it until the flesh turns white
5. Pour wine. Put salt and pepper to taste.
6. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to boil.
7. Add in parsley, tomatoes and olives. Simmer for another 1 or 2 minutes, making sure that the tomatoes retain its chunky texture.
8. Pour over precooked al dente spaghetti or linguine. Allow the the pasta to absorb some of the stock.
9. Remove from heat and serve in a plate. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

This recipe makes 6 - 8 servings.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Oriental Hot and Sour Soup for Diabetics

There were two things that initially attracted me to Jesuit life: food and music. The 80’s Vocation Seminars and Workshops were memorable because the food was simply tasty. I was 16 years old then when I attended the Vocation Seminar in Naga City and the Workshop at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches in 1984. Literally, I was caught by the all-time favorite baits for teenagers. But look where food and music brought me: I am now a five-year old priest ministering to the youth. And my secret baits? You already know. Grace indeed builds on nature: God begins where we are.

However, there are times when our favorite outlets are tested. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I thought my food-trips were over. But Jesuit life has taught me never to give up: there is always an alternative. After all, the derogatory and offensive word derived from us, jesuitic, is defined as “crafty and cunning.” I might as well transform that hate word into something constructive. One never goes wrong with food. Here's one soup for people like me.

8 oz. skinless chicken breasts, sliced into ¼ inch-thick strips

14 oz. chicken broth

2 shredded carrots

2 sliced mushrooms

½ cup bamboo shoots, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons of rice or coconut vinegar

¾ teaspoons powdered white or black pepper

½ teaspoons of hot sauce

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 tablespoons of apple cider or vanilla extract

2 medium sliced green onions

1 egg, slightly beaten

Mix chicken broth, chicken breasts, carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, vinegar, white/black pepper and hot sauce in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer about 5 minutes until chicken breast are cooked (check until pink center is gone).

In a small bowl, stir in cornstarch, soy sauce, apple cider or vanilla extract until smooth. Add to the chicken broth mixture. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Stir in green onions and egg. Cook about 1 minute, stirring in one direction, until egg is cooked.

Put soup into serving bowls. Serve hot. Makes about 6-7 bowls.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

On Frugality of Meals

The following is an excerpt from a letter dated May 12, 1556 written by St. Ignatius to Father Adrian Adriaenssens. St. Ignatius sent this letter to the rector of the college in Louvain to address the latter's inquiry on the quality of the meals that should be served in the community.

"Ignatius proposes that the meals be frugal, and that the food served be that which is ordinary in that locale and easily obtainable. While Ignatius writes this for those who enjoy good health, he at the same time insists that those who are ill should receive all that they need, and any extras that the physician may prescribe for them." (Read more)

The peace of Christ.
We have received your reverence's letter dated the last of March, and to answer all your points briefly, I praise your thriftiness and economy and your doing your best to give a good example in all that concerns food. I do not think it is good, however, to withhold what the physician thinks is necessary for the recovery or the preservation of health, though he too ought to keep our poverty in mind. This much in general. It is good, moreover, to get accustomed to the more common and more easily obtainable food and drink, especially if one enjoys good health, and it is quite in keeping with reason and our Institute, which directs that Ours make use of those foods that are common and ordinary.

This letter I think explains why Ministers of the House or Kitchen Ministers are always on a look out for opportunities to serve good food to their communities but at the same time making it sure that it is not overly done and goes beyond our simplicity of life. One way of ensuring this is to look for substitues for ingredients which are not locally available. Another way still, is to come up with a "mock" version of an expensive meal.

The cooks from Sacred Heart Novitiate call their Oriental Style Fried Chicken, Pekeng Duck(fake duck) mimicking the flavor of Peking Style Fried Duck. Fr. Herbert Schneider, Minister of Loyola House of Studies came up with his Mock Shark's Fin Soup by using vermicelli as substitute for the very expensive sharks fin.

Here in Xavier School Jesuit Residence, we've come up with our Five Spice Fried Chicken which copies the savory taste of Fried Pigeon usually served in Chinese Lauriat feasts.

Five Spiced Fried Chicken

1 whole medium sized chicken (approx. 1 kilo), obvious fat removed keeping the skin on

2 tbsp. five spice powder

1 clove star anise

3 tbsp. Le Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce

3 tbsp. Le Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce

1 tsp. ginger juice

2 stalks leeks, chopped

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 cup water.

  1. Prepare the marinade. In a large bowl, combine Hoisin and Char Siu sauces, ginger juice, star anise and five spice powder.
  2. Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours (24 hours for maximum flavor).
  3. Pre-cook the Chicken. In a medium sized pot over medium heat, simmer the chicken in its marinade for about 15 minutes. Remove chicken and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Set aside marinade.
  4. Cut chicken into half and deep fry over medium heat until it turns almond brown.*
  5. Remove chicken from the pan to a plate with table napkins to remove excess oil. Set aside.
  6. Prepare the sauce. Combine cornstarch and water. Bring extra chicken marinade into a boil and add the cornstarch mixture to thicken.
  7. Serving suggestion: Chop the Five Spice Fried Chicken and serve it on top of fried prawn crackers (this should resemble a fowl resting on its nest). Pour in sauce and sprinkle with chopped leeks.

*For a healthier option, try using turbo broiler instead of deep frying it. It brings same results less the fat.

This recipe makes 6 servings.